Background: A cancer diagnosis may carry with it a variety of legal issues, including insurance coverage, government benefits, and consumer rights. Cancer care is expensive, and with inadequate insurance coverage, cancer survivors have higher out-of-pocket costs even years after diagnosis. Healthcare professionals are well-positioned to help navigate these issues and mitigate the financial impact of cancer across the continuum of care. Stories of lost jobs, damaged credit, bankruptcy, eviction, medical debt, and huge amounts of stress, anxiety, and depression after a cancer diagnosis are common. By the time individuals seek help, they are in crisis. But with appropriate information and guidance, many of these crises are preventable. However, there is a gap in formal education related to health and disability insurance and finances. Healthcare professionals themselves indicate a gap in understanding and lack of awareness of relevant resources.
Objectives: To increase the knowledge of healthcare professionals on cancer-related legal and financial issues that may impact their patients. Outline factors to consider whenever choosing between health insurance options to lower out-of-pocket costs and mitigate the potential financial burden of a cancer diagnosis. Evaluate the effectiveness of the training on improving patient quality.
Methods: To address this gap in knowledge, the Insurance & Finance Intensive was created. It focused on providing healthcare professionals with tools to proactively identify the presence of cancer-related legal, health insurance, and financial issues facing their patients. Additionally, the training helped healthcare professionals to offer referrals to appropriate legal and related resources once those issues were identified. Topics covered included: an overview of the US healthcare system; individual and employer-sponsored health insurance; Medicare and Medicaid; tips on using health insurance and appeals; navigating disability insurance and appeals; and managing finances and getting financial help. Case studies and interactive group exercises are used to help healthcare professionals implement the learning. A follow-up survey was sent to past Intensive attendees to measure the effectiveness of the training.
Results: Through June 2021, the Insurance & Finance Intensive has been provided 28 times nationwide since its inception in 2017. Nearly 1500 healthcare professionals have participated in the 8-hour comprehensive training. Ninety percent of survey respondents indicated that they changed their behavior or practice based on what they learned at the training. Ninety-four percent of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that the information provided by the training helped reduce the financial burden that patients and their families experienced after a cancer diagnosis. Ninety-five percent of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that the information provided by the training helped them reduce the stress and anxiety of patients and their families. Ninety-seven percent of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that the information provided by the training improved the quality of life of patients and their families.
Conclusion: When individuals understand how to obtain health insurance, appeal denials, take time off work, access disability insurance, and manage financial stressors, their quality of life and survivorship outcomes improve. Effectively training healthcare professionals to better navigate patients through these issues alleviates the financial burden of cancer and improves patients’ quality of life. It is recommended that more healthcare professionals participate in this training to improve the quality of life of their patients beyond diagnosis. Additionally, healthcare professionals who have completed the training may benefit from ongoing training to obtain up-to-date information about changes to the healthcare system and relevant laws.